TV and radio
HBO's spectacular series Six Feet Under ended superbly, ABC's dynamic duo of Lost and Desperate Housewives lost nothing and very little, respectively, in their second seasons, and Arrested Development deservedly remains a critics' favorite even as it faces an uncertain future.
But the best television of 2005 was NBC's The Office. I say that because this adaptation managed to take everything great about the original British series and expertly translate it for an American audience.
The NBC version (9:30 p.m., Thursdays, WTHR 13) takes the subtlety out of the boss, makes his assistant a little more strange and overbearing and concentrates slightly more on the inertia of daily living than the monotony of office life. Everything else is similar enough without being a direct imitation. In fact, because the British version lasted only 12 episodes, its American cousin is almost like a continuation. The laughs can still be painful and cringe-inducing, but they're genuine and smart.
Rounding out my top 10 are Lost (still riveting); My Name is Earl (along with The Office, TV's best hour); Entourage (as good, smart and funny a look at Hollywood and friendship as we're likely to get); Desperate Housewives (less mysterious, but now even funnier); Six Feet Under (left the air at the top of its game); The Boondocks (there's nothing more daring on television); Everwood (a soap opera, but always an intelligent one); Everybody Hates Chris (a wonderful, sweet trifle); How I Met Your Mother (another sweet trifle with a cast that's talented enough to mask inconsistent scripts).
And there's still more worth watching, including (but not limited to) Arrested Development, The Shield, Prison Break, The Simpsons, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls and Survivor - any of which could have easily made the top 10. Having more than 15 shows worth watching is what I'd call a good year.
A final footnote: Earl gave us the single best line of dialogue. While being forced to join his girlfriend in making papier-mâché, Earl observed, "She figured out a way to make newspapers even more boring."
Local radio had a strange year. The biggest story was the enormous ratings success of WKLU-FM (101.9), which switched from eclectic album rock to classic-rock hits and saw its audience grow more than six times larger. In the meantime, WGLD-FM (104.5) went from oldies to WJJK, the playing-what-we-want "Jack" format, and WTPI-FM (107.9) became WNTR, "The Track."
In all three cases, the stations more or less dropped what makes local radio special - the personalities. The KLU DJs play lots of music and say almost nothing, while NTR has a limited number of live jocks and JJK has none locally. It's unclear why, when commercial-free, music-intensive satellite radio is becoming a real force, local stations would cede the territory that makes them vital. If it continues, terrestrial radio's future looks awfully grim.
Since I have a paragraph left over, allow me to recommend some music from 2005. You can't go wrong with: Picaresque (The Decemberists); Illinois (Sufjan Stevens); Plans (Death Cab for Cutie); Tough on Crime (Rebecca Pidgeon); War of the Wakening Phantoms (The High Dials); The Magic Numbers (The Magic Numbers); and The Lost Art of the Idle Moment (Carmen Rizzo). If you think there's nothing new worth listening to, check these out.